A Studio in the Barn

My wife’s family owns a summer home along the St. George Peninsula in Central Maine.

The property has an old barn just off the main part of the house.  Today, the barn is mostly used for storage, but up on the top floor is a lovely room with large, leaded-glass windows.  We often use this room when we need extra beds for visitors.  I also use it as a studio during our stays along the coast.

In this part of Maine, old things are still welcome.  Many houses and barns from the 19th century still stand, and the antique trade is a major part of the tourist culture along the coast.  It was really during these visits that I started my love for and collection of 19th century photographs, having purchased a number of daguerreotypes and wet-plate photographs over the years.

At times, something of this antique culture has spilled into my work.

Working in my studio in the barn, one summer several years ago, I started photographing some of the antique photographs I’d collected (this is an album composed of dozens of tiny tintypes, each photograph about the size of my fingernails), as well as old books left in the barn to rot.

These photographs were made somewhere around 1999 or 2000, all using an 8×10 view camera I bought from Nicholas Nixon. The photographs were also a printing experiment.  At the time, I was really interested in the photography of Aaron Rose, and found myself looking for unique photographic toners. For these photographs, I used a class of Varigram toners.  Akin to thorieau toners, these toners offer a broad range of colors, from cold blue tones to bold rose colors.

This book is about Victorian culture in New England (this particular page is about slavery).

These are pages from an old chemistry text book.

I’d bring the old photographs and books up to my studio in the barn, and place them under the leaded-windows, and photograph under the rich Maine light (This is the same book on Victorian New England, a page on corsetry).

Eventually, these photographs lead to a more broadly conceived series of photographs, a series photographed in libraries across New York and Montreal, Short Stories.

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